Maybe it's a stereotype, but the place where you're supposed to do some of your biggest healing — the hospital — has a long-running reputation as a sterile environment with bad food and a devotion only to technology-based treatments, with nothing too warm and fuzzy.
Well, take another look. Hospitals more and more are evolving into places for "complementary medicine," meaning that alternative treatments such as massage, music, guided imagery and organic, locally grown food are complementing regular medical treatment.
At Ashland Community Hospital, a broad-based complementary team of nurses, staff members and alternative treatment volunteers from the community are providing a range of supra-scientific modalities, such as reiki (Japanese hands-on stress reduction), healing touch and aromatherapy.
If it sounds magical, well, maybe it is. An array of nurses and patients swear by it. Take aromatherapy, for instance. Hospital practitioners have found that nausea is helped by essential oils of ginger and peppermint, nervousness is reduced by cedarwood or lavender and relaxation is enhanced by bergamot or frankincense.
These alternative healing modes are not a fringe, sometimes thing. They're based on the 30-year-old Planetree model and are offered to everyone — including the entire hospital staff. All 435 ACH employees attend a day-long, quarterly workshop on such modalities at EdenVale Winery.
"It's a way to treat the whole person," says Kathi Wilcox, vice president for organizational transformation. "People are more than their body. We're recognizing the body, mind and spirit as part of the healing environment."
The Planetree model addresses the personal and spiritual needs of patients and their families, bringing artists-in-residence and art carts (with music CDs, art supplies and books) to bedsides and waiting rooms, which have been renamed "comfort zones" and supplied with large-screen TVs, Internet, pull-out couches and a refrigerator full of microwaveable meals.
In larger comfort zones, you'll usually find live harp or guitar music. A health information center invites patients and family members to broaden knowledge in a library and on the Internet — as well as to send e-mails.
You'd naturally expect every little courtesy to show up on your medical bill, but it doesn't. It's all performed by volunteers, including professionals in the alternative healing fields.